Jun 11, 2012

Virginia Tech's ePortfolios in the First-Year Experience

TWSIA Award: Virginia Tech’s e Portfolios for First-Year Experience

This session provided an interesting insight in to Virginia Tech’s QEP for this SACS cycle.  While their QEP was based on the American Association of Colleges & Universities’ Essential Learning Outcomes, it zeroed in on assessing problem-solving skills, inquiry, and integrative learning in an online portfolio for the FYE program.   

How did the project come about?
So far, the project has spanned three years.  In Year One (2010-2011), 1,200 students participated in the Sakai ePortfolio pilot in 5 departments across Virginia Tech:
  • College of Architecture and Urban Studies: Design Thinking (13 students) 
  • University Studies (Undecided Students): Hokie Horizons (300 students) 
  • College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences: Introduction to the Research University (300 students) 
  • Department of Biological Sciences: Life Science Foundations (500 students) 
  • College of Science, Transfer Student Program: Zip Line to Success (50 students)
In Year Two (2011-2012), the program expanded to 12 projects across the College and 2,000 students, now including:
  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Pamplin College of Business
Year Three (2012-2013) is yet to come, but Virginia Tech hopes to expand to 2,500-3,000 students with every First-Year student participating in the ePortfolio project in the near future.

It became clear to me, as the presentation progressed, that the ePortfolios were intended to assess skills for SACS to demonstrate that students were meeting certain competencies. 

What are ePortfolios?
The ePortfolios themselves had two major components of assessment:
While the ePortfolio is aiming to assess problem-solving, inquiry, and integration, some VT instructors offered extra points to students for adding more elements to the portfolio than were necessary.

What do the ePortfolios look like?
Essentially, the ePortfolios look like wiki pages with tabs.  The tabs usually included the following:
  • Who am I?
  • My Path (these are the SMART Goals and Academic Course Plan from our ACA 122)
    • Major
    • Career
  • Service: Some VT programs have a service requirement
  • Matrix: Reflection essays demonstrating how the students met the learning outcomes.
What next?
VT has some concerns about the future of the ePortfolio project:
  • Scale: What happens when there are hundreds of thousands of ePortfolios on the server 
  • Needs analysis 
  • Developing tool complexity 
  • Blogging 
  • Cloud-based technology
What did I think of all this?
I think this would be an interesting way for students in online courses as well as seated courses to get used to current computer/college technologies, acquire new, marketable technology skills at the same time, and complete a class or a program with a product that they can take with them and show potential senior institutions or employers.  .  As an assessment opportunity, sure, it would work just fine, but we might need a LOT of help from the folks at Virginia Tech to find out how they built the templates the way they did.

How does this apply to Durham Tech?
Call Gabby.  I’m going to dinner.